“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
I’ve got to be honest here. I hate running. I do it simply so I can eat pizza on Sunday nights. But my wife loves it. She’d go most any day — sunny, cold, rainy, hot — doesn’t matter. Last year I promised her I’d run in the Peachtree Road Race. I trained so I wouldn’t embarrass myself and I’ve kept up the routine.
Recently I had the great honor to run in the Fallen Heroes 5K/10K race at Lake Lanier. Funds from the event are earmarked for Georgia families that have lost a loved one in the armed forces. I love my country and those that serve so I was happy to contribute.
Race morning my mindset was focused on doing my best. I found myself zoned in as we left the parked car and headed down to the starting line. Just before the starting line, we arrived at the Wall of Heroes. I stopped to look at the pictures of these young men and women that had lost their lives defending our country. I read the heart-breaking notes to them from friends and family members. You know it is tough to read with watery eyes.
The race began shortly after a reading of all the fallen soldiers’ names. As I stood along the lake with the sun just coming up, I was struck by just how quiet it was. As we ran the course, pictures of these heroes dotted the landscape. Families of these heroes stood behind several of the pictures and other veterans were scattered along the course manning American flags. A group of Marines — I’d say most were in their seventies — met us at the halfway mark. We exchanged a laugh as one grizzled veteran told me to “get off my hill”. Beautiful.
As I chugged along taking everything in, I found myself grateful for the reminder of what these brave men and women had done for me. Kids, 19-and-20-year-old kids, gave it all so an old, out of shape guy like me could enjoy a crisp spring morning at one of Georgia’s beautiful landmarks. I ran a decent time but my celebration was a reflective one for the pain and loss of who had made it possible.
The pressure was intense. The enemy was closing in. Jesus knew time was short with the disciples. He took one last night to give them some final pieces of advice. We’re all familiar with Jesus’ act of washing the disciples’ feet. But, in the book of John in chapters 14-17, we find Jesus over and over imploring the disciples to love. He knew what would happen in mere hours but Jesus wanted to drive this point home.
Late that night, authorities grabbed him up. He was questioned, imprisoned, and tortured. Pain. Pain that we can’t fully imagine. Within a day he was hung on a cross and died. Now the pain fell to his followers. Pain and loss.
But celebration would come. Two days later an angel would utter some of the most beautiful words in the Bible, “…He is not here; he has risen, just as he said….” Matthew 28:6
We celebrate the empty tomb. We celebrate the fact that Jesus has risen and is alive today. However, we can’t fully appreciate celebration until we fully appreciate the pain. Without the pain, there is no celebration. As we enter Holy Week, next week, let’s remember Good Friday. Let’s remember the price that had to be paid. Good Friday had to happen for us to celebrate Easter. Pain before celebration.
“Father God, thank you for those brave men and women that gave their lives for us so we can enjoy freedom. We look forward to seeing them again one day in Heaven. And thank you most of all for Jesus, who took the pain and ultimately death so that we could be with you one day. Today, make us acutely aware of the pain and loss that were required on Good Friday so that we can celebrate Easter on Sunday.”
Director of Operations
Johns Creek Baptist Church